Romanian Transfagarasan vs. South West of England
The Transfagarasan Highway is one of the world’s most breath-taking roads but remains one of its most dangerous. In comparison, the Mendips and Exmoor are much more tame, both in scale and level of danger. Trade Count Dracula for The Hound of the Baskervilles and enjoy a road trip through the South West of England instead.
Romanian Transfagarasan Highway
- Distance: 236 miles/380 kilometres
- Driving time: Approx. 6 hours
- Recommended holiday time: 7 days
Romania remains the road less travelled, and in this road trip you’ll take in one of the world’s most beautiful roads, the Transfagarasan Highway. Travellers along this road report incredible view (as well as sightings of wild bears). However, there are very few rest stops or amenities along the road, and there are no safety measures in place to prevent rock falls. If you decide to risk it, as lots have done, you’ll create memories for life.
Start at the capital, Bucharest. Imposing architecture, an exciting food scene, and fantastic museums make Bucharest a great place for a few days break. Lipscani, the city’s old town, is filled with exciting bars and shops to peruse. The Urbanist serves coffee, good cocktails, food as well as gifts and homewares. Otherwise, Caru’ cu bere is a great restaurant and bar frequented by tourists and locals alike. The Pura Vida Sky Bar has a beautiful sunset view over the rooftops. The bar is also a hostel, perfect for housing groups or individuals in dormitory style rooms.
Making your way from Bucharest to the edge of the Transfagarasan Highway, Curtea de Arges is a town on the bank of the Arges River, home to a beautiful monastery and cathedral, both of which are worth a visit. The Poenari Citadel is one of the most famous castles in the world. With picturesque views over the valley, the ruins of this fortress have connections to Vlad the Impaler and are thought to be the spot Count Dracula called home. 1480 steps lead to the castle, but beware, it tends to be closed over the summer months because of bears, so check the website before making the journey.
As you drive towards Brasov, be sure to stop at the Balea Lake. Formed in the base of a glacier, the lake will be frozen solid over winter and early spring, and the landscape snowy. Stay here for a few nights at the Balea Lake Chalet to enjoy the hiking and water sports that the area offers. Walk to the stunning Balea Waterfall, or in the winter, hire a guide to take you ice climbing or skiing.
Brasov is a city in Translyvania, surrounded by the Carpathian mountains. The drive here is spectacular, but the town itself is just as beautiful. This 13th century town has cobbled streets, terracotta rooved buildings and a relaxed, romantic vibe. Stroll through the Piata Sfatului, taking in the town hall and clock tower and stop at a nearby café for a cup of coffee. One of the most interesting things to do in Brasov is to simply wander the streets. The medieval architecture of the city gives great opportunities for photography. Walk through the Saxon centre and past the fortified walls into the Schei District. The Bella Muzica Hotel or Hotel Casa Wagner are both a great base to explore the town and the surrounding area.
The Mendips and Exmoor Road Trip
- Distance: 116 miles/186 kilometres
- Driving time: Approx. 4 hours
- Recommended holiday time: 10 days
The Mendips and Exmoor cover a part of the country quite remote from the nearest city. This part of the country has two areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty: Mendip Hills and Quantock Hills, as well as Exmoor National Park. This South West England road trip is ideal for those who prefer a slower pace of life on holiday, as there’s plenty of opportunity to stop the car and walk through the rolling moors of the countryside.
Just east of Barnstaple is Porlock Vale in the heart of Exmoor. This area has great opportunities for hiking and water sports, as well as lovely pubs, tearooms, cafes and independent shops, which makes Porlock a great base for exploring the area. Close to Porlock is the Coleridge Way, a 51 mile walking trail from Lynmouth to Nether Stowey through Devon and Somerset. It’s a beautiful walk, so start the whole route at Lymouth or do one of the smaller connecting walks that run along the coast or through the moors. Perhaps the most picturesque part of the walk is the first 6 miles from Lynmouth to Oare, so stay close to Lynmouth as a base. The Staghunters Inn offers good homecooked food and a nice place to stay.
Yes, you guessed it, Cheddar is home to one of the world’s best loved cheeses. This village is a cheese-lovers dream, as local cheesemakers showcase different flavoured cheddars for your perusal. However, it’s Cheddar Gorge and Jacob’s Ladder that is the highlight of any trip to this vicinity. Wild goats and sheep roam the rock formations here, making a great photo opportunity. You’ll also want to visit Glastonbury Tor for a peaceful view out over the surrounding countryside.
Wells is England’s smallest city with just 12,000 residents. Nestled in the Mendip Hills, it’s a great place to spend a few days exploring the English countryside. The centre is dominated by its 13th century cathedral, but this quaint town has much more to offer. Vicar’s Close is a little cobbled street tucked behind the Cathedral. Walk down past on your way to the Bishop’s Palace and Garden, home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for the last 800 years. Cross the flagstone drawbridge and walk under the portcullis to explore the 14 acres of beautiful gardens.
Famous for its Roman history and natural hot springs, Bath has been a travel destination for hundreds of years. There’s plenty of things to do, including shopping, places to eat, museums and galleries. No.1 Royal Crescent is a museum that shows what life would have been like in an upper-class Bath home between the years of 1776 and 1796. The Roman Baths is a very well-preserved historical site displaying one of the greatest examples of a Roman spa in the world. The city’s thermal springs naturally rise at the site and the baths have a stream of natural hot water. Then stop at Sally Lunn’s, Bath’s world famous tea house and sample one of their famous bunns – part bun, part bread and part cake – adored since 1680.